Erectile dysfunction drugs may protect against Alzheimer's, study suggests

FILE-A man prepares to take a Viagra pill. (Photo by: BSIP/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

A recent study suggests that erectile dysfunction drugs could lower the chances of Alzheimer’s disease in men. 

In a report published in the American Academy of Neurology, researchers used medical data and monitored and tracked more than 260,000 men with an average age of 59 years for five years. Fifty-five percent of the participants in the study were prescribed erectile dysfunction drugs compared to 45% who were not. 

The study noted that the participants didn’t have a diagnosis of dementia, memory problems or signs of Alzheimer’s when the study started. 

Researchers clarified in the report that their work doesn’t specifically prove that erectile dysfunction drugs reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s, just that there’s a possible connection. 

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Drugs used in the study by researchers were phosphodiesterase type-5 inhibitors (PDE5Is), which are medications used to treat hypertension and erectile dysfunction.

According to the study, the team believes PDE5Is reduces Alzheimer’s risk because some forms of the drugs can improve brain health by increasing blood flow to the brain.

When the team followed up with the participants, approximately 1,119 men developed Alzheimer’s disease. According to the study, among the men taking erectile dysfunction drugs, 749 developed Alzheimer’s. But for men who didn’t take ED drugs, 370 developed the disease. 

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After researchers adjusted other factors that impact the rate of Alzheimer’s disease, like age, alcohol consumption and if a person smokes or not, they determined that men taking ED drugs were 18% less likely to develop Alzheimer’s. 

The team also found that the link between erectile dysfunction medications and Alzheimer’s was stronger in men who were prescribed the most meds during the study. 

One of the study’s limitations was that the findings were based on prescription records. Researchers couldn’t verify whether participants actually filled the prescriptions and used the drugs, Medical News Today noted. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia, and it is a progressive disease beginning with mild memory loss and possibly leading to loss of the ability to carry on a conversation and respond to the environment. 

Alzheimer’s disease involves parts of the brain that control thought, memory, and language, and it can seriously affect a person’s ability to carry out daily activities.

This story was reported from Washington, D.C.